After 6 Drownings, Swimmers Warned to Stay Out of ‘Hazardous’ Kern River

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In this 2008 photograph, a man fishes for trout against a backdrop of rushing rapids on the Kern River. (Credit: Genaro Molina / Los Angeles Times)

In singing about the Kern River, Merle Haggard put it best: “It’s a mean piece of water, my friend.”

As a heat wave tightens its grip on California, the water in the massive Sierra Nevada snowpack is being squeezed into the state’s rivers and reservoirs, creating dangerous conditions downstream.

On Monday, the Bakersfield Fire Department urged Kern River visitors – especially those from out of town and unfamiliar with the conditions – to keep out.

“The Kern River is hazardous for those not properly trained in special water navigation techniques or not accompanied by trained river guides,” the department said in its precautionary alert. “The sections of the Kern River flowing through metro Bakersfield may look calm and inviting, but the force is shocking, unexpectedly powerful and can overcome the strongest swimmers.”

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